Journaling to Give Depth to Writing - A Wandering Scribbler
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Journaling to Give Depth to Writing


Journaling to Give Depth to Writing

planebook.watermarkI’ve said this before, at least to myself if no one else, that journaling is absolutely essential to bringing something deeper to writing, both fiction and nonfiction.  Travel, no matter how long you’re away, or how frequently you visit a place, goes by so quickly, more quickly than seems possible.  There’s no way for us to remember every little detail about a place, a person, or a feeling, later on when writing.  I’m often surprised, when I look back in journals to see a smell I described that I’ve since forgotten about, or a person’s name that I had no chance of remembering.

But even so, no matter how much I say it’s important to journal, I still DON”T JOURNAL ENOUGH.

I think it’s part laziness, part over-confidence.  I’m lazy because I just want to see things or experience them, and by the end of the day I’m too tired or worn out to write much.  And it’s over-confidence but I always think that I will remember things, even months later.

newtownprague.watermarkI never do remember things though, and I end up hating myself, both for things I should have paid attention to, like the color of certain buildings, the temperature outside, the sound of foreign voices, and the things I ONCE knew but have since forgotten, the brand of that fish paste in a tube in Norway, the word Brits use for turning signals, or as I say “blinkers,” or the way the name of the quiet pub in Estonia where two pre-teens were working and drinking at the same time.

Needless to say, I hate myself every time I sit down to write a story about a place I’ve once been, which is, basically, all the time.  I find that I gloss over details because I don’t have any specifics written down.  I eventually have to do research to find things I already knew, but forgot and a lot of the time, unimaginable I know, things aren’t on the internet.

My thoughts on journalling is whenever that voice in your head says, “you’ll remember that” it means that you won’t, so you should write it down.  If you ever find yourself thinking “that’s interesting” or “that’s strange:” write it down.  If you ever find yourself out of ANYTHING to write about, just look around.  Unless you’re under a rock or something, you will have plenty of things to write about: the weather, the smell, the floor or ground under your feet, the table or bench you’re sitting at, the people around you- loud quiet, men, women, old young.

There is never a shortage of things to write about and even if you are ABSOLUTELY positive that you’re never going to write about it, write it anyway.  Maybe somewhere down the line you want to tell the story of your trip, or you’re writing a novel and your character suddenly finds herself in that city, well, voila, you have plenty of information on it already, no research for you.

CuscoSo, I have come to the conclusion, for the millionth time, that journalling is essential to writing a compelling and specific story, both fiction and nonfiction.  I’ve heard “the story is in the details” countless times and it’s true.  No one wants to read a vague story.

So, for the last time, I hope, I’m going to commit to journalling because I don’t have time to research things I should have already written down and I don’t think you do either.


For more Travel Essays check out my Essays Page.

  • Shaz
    Posted at 01:45h, 19 November Reply

    Ugh I recently realized I have this same issue. I went to write a story about somewhere I’ve been only to look at my journal and read “words can’t describe how beautiful it is…” !!!! How is that helpful in any way? I too end up researching and wasting unnecessary time. I need to a) journal more consistently and b) be as descriptive as possible every time I write in it.

      Posted at 02:07h, 19 November Reply

      Yes! Something I’m trying to do now is force myself to think of descriptive words as I’m in the middle of it. It’s so much easier than thinking back to come up with words.

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